Below is a transcribed version of The Nail Hub Podcast, Episode 101: Are You a Smooth Checkout Operator? To listen, click here.

Welcome to the Nail Hub Podcast, powered by NAILS Magazine. I'm Elizabeth Morris, your business-obsessed nail guru, here to share with you advice, motivation, and everything else to help you be successful. As Leonard Nimoy said, "The more we share, the more we have." So, let's get sharing.  

So they just opened a Hobby Lobby down the street from my house, and this is gonna be very, very dangerous. I love Hobby Lobby, I could literally live in there. And I've tried to convince everybody that Hobby Lobby should be considered a retirement plan, because technically, if you think about it when you retire you end up doing all kinds of crafts that you can do at Hobby Lobby, or you can buy from Hobby Lobby. So every time I shop at Hobby Lobby I'm like, "Babe, it's like part of my retirement plan. It's stuff I can do when I'm retired, or whenever I want." No, but seriously, I love Hobby Lobby. I just went over, they just opened it, they've got like the little grand opening sign on it, super exciting. And it's huge and they have everything because it's brand new, so it's completely stocked to the gills with amazing goodies.  

So, of course, I had to go over and peruse, look at cute scrapbooking paper for backgrounds for my nail tip pictures. I mean, Hobby Lobby is just a goldmine for ideas for stuff, especially for the nail industry. If you guys haven't tried that, I highly recommend it. They have really cute little albums of scrapbooking paper, or you can even buy individual sheets and it's a great background to put for your nail tip pictures or even for pictures of your clients' hands. I love stuff like that. But I went over there and, of course, I'm digging through everything, I got some awesome goodies. I'm actually gonna make a rug, I just started getting crazy on YouTube with this... it's called like rug punching, and you basically use this weird looking hollow needle thing to like push yarn through linen, or burlap, or monk's cloth, and it makes a really cool looped rug. So I'm obsessed with that, so now I have to make a rug. And this is so funny because I feel like I'm, you know, 85, but hello, the stuff is fun and I just love anything that's kind of like hand-eye detailed coordination and creating artistic things. So it's just a very fun thing to do.  

But I went over there. I'm like putting all the stuff in my cart, I go to check out and I love Hobby Lobby also because they have coupons which is awesome. They always have like some kind of weekly deal. And when I get to the check out the lady, I started to realize like she was not scanning any barcodes, she was typing in the numbers manually and then she was asking me what department the things were from. And you could just tell that because they were newly set up they probably just didn't have barcodes set up, or that the employees weren't trained on where everything goes, or what categories to put things under. And obviously, with a store like Hobby Lobby inventory is very important, and so it becomes extremely important to make sure that things are catalogued the right way and that they are actually able to track all the inventory that gets sold.  

But I thought it was interesting because I was like really, you don't have any barcodes set up in your system yet? And it made me think because it started to get a little bit awkward, right? It's taking a long time, she's asking me for information about the stuff that I'm buying, I'm supposed to be like, you know, more knowledgeable than she is about what departments I'm buying the things from. And she was asking me like, "Oh, like what does this," you know, "what's this department?" Or "What is this considered?" Or "What's this product?" And I'm sitting here like, you know, it doesn't bother me, but it is a little bit weird especially when you're the customer and you're the one having to tell people, you know, how to kind of do what they need to do. So anyhoo, it just made me think about the checkout process in any business and I do think that this is one of the areas in a business that can easily become very awkward for the customer and the business owner.  

There's nothing more awkward than like standing there ready to pay for something, and then having to kind of like think about it a second time, a third time, or just mulling it over while you're standing there because the person isn't able to just easily accept your money. And I think you guys might agree with me that when you have a client where you're trying to figure out how much to charge them, they're sitting there awkwardly, or you don't have like a clear process as to how to pay you, or how to tip you, it just becomes very awkward. So I thought I would talk about this a little bit because I think it does affect a lot of businesses, and Hobby Lobby is just one example that cropped up that I thought, you know, "Hey, that's a good idea. I should talk about this." But there's tons of businesses I've been to where if the checkout process is... it takes a long time, or it's not quite crystal clear, or you know, they're asking me for information or anything like that, or even the words that they use. It can become very awkward. Good example of word usage or word choice is when, let's say you're at Starbucks or something, or you're at a store where you have a gift card. I use a Starbucks card because I love getting points so I earn free drinks.

But I have had it where like my card runs out of money and I have to pay the rest of it on my debit card, or with cash, or whatever. And really interesting word choice is, you owe blah, blah, blah, right? So the person behind the counter like, I'll pay with my Starbucks card and they'll go, "Okay, you owe $5.33." And it's interesting because I've also had people say, "You have a balance of," blank. And the word owe, I think has a very negative connotation, right? When you owe someone something people often think of like, it's weird. It's like you have this weird little flashback about loans or, you know, being beholden to someone, or... it just has like a very negative feeling. And so I do think word choice also has a big impact on how our clients feel when they walk out the door. Because you can easily have this amazing high during your service and it can definitely be crushed within three seconds if the checkout process is either awkward in some way, or it takes too long, or maybe you use an interesting word like, "You owe," blah, blah, blah.   

I think that type of lingo definitely has a negative impact on the way the client feels when they walk out the threshold of our doorstep. So I definitely want you guys to think about, are you guys using words like that? You know, are you using kind of negative words when you're talking about tipping, or balances or, you know, money due, or whatever. So I would say that words like due, owe, are something to stay away from. I would use something like... especially also one of the big things is like if the card doesn't go through oh my gosh, I just cringe when I hear people say that. When they say, "Your card has been declined." That also is a very negative term, right? And yes, it's true the card was declined, great. That's fine, but you can also put it in a different way which is, "The card did not go through," or "Oh, this card doesn't seem to be working," right?   

So when you say something like that like, "Oh, this card doesn't seem to be working. Do you wanna try a different one?" That's a great way to say that because it can happen to anyone, right? Declined, it's an embarrassing word because if there's other people standing around maybe it's something as innocent as you spent too much money that day. I remember back in the day like if you spent over a certain amount of money on your debit card it would like shut down your debit card. Like this was like early on with debit cards. It can also be like if someone's traveling and they've been using their credit card here, there, and everywhere, of course, now fraud is one of the biggest things that credit card companies try to crack down on, so they'll immediately shut off your card and wait until you verify the charges that have been made. Or it could be a situation where the person just doesn't have enough cash on their debit card, whatever the case might be, right?   But you definitely don't wanna be the person who's making your client feel embarrassed about their financial situation. Because you really don't know number one, what their financial situation is, and it's also something very private, it's something very sensitive. And so I would recommend you guys don't use the word declined. If someone's card doesn't go through just say, "Hey, this card doesn't seem to be working. Do you wanna try a different one?" Or "Hey, maybe, you know, you're traveling and, you know, your credit card company wants to make sure that this is legit, did you happen to get a text message, or an e-mail? We can wait until you verify that and then we can try it again."   

So try, you know, to use some softer words to make it more comfortable for the client in that checkout situation because I do think it is something that is very, very sensitive. And I just also had that happen recently where I was the lady behind the person paying and the lady just with full volume says, "Your card's been declined." With like a little bit of sass on the, you know, on the sentence. And I'm like, "Oh, that's so awkward." And of course the lady who's paying is just turning 50 shades of red because she's like, "Oh my gosh, this is so embarrassing." And it could have easily been changed around if she had said, "Oh, that's funny. This card doesn't seem to be working. Do you wanna try a different one?" It would have been so much smoother, so much nicer, and it wouldn't have been as awkward for everyone involved. And so I really recommend you guys focus on word choice.   

So I wanted to talk about this, about how can you make your checkout process smoother? Because you want it to be quick, right? And so I was thinking about okay, so what are the quickest ways I know of to check out? I have seen a lot of booking systems that allow check out which is great, so if you use a booking system like Booker, or MINDBODY, or Schedulicity, or any of those that might have a payment service included with it. That's a great way to do it, it's very automated and it's all in one place you can keep your appointments and everything, and your, you know, financial tracking and payments all in one place. Another one that I know a lot of people use is Square, but I'm not a huge fan of Square. I have to say Square to me is just a total pain in the neck. I've had really bad experiences with them, and I know a lot of people have had really bad experiences with Square.   

I feel like Square is one of those things where like people are split down the middle. Some people absolutely love Square and some people don't. But I also find that Square's fees are really expensive. It definitely depends on what you're doing, but I'm just not a huge fan of Square for what they offer. But they do integrate with a lot of websites and so I know a lot of people tend to use them. PayPal's another, PayPal is a great one because a lot of people already have a PayPal account which is awesome. So you can even have people send you money through PayPal, you can accept payments with the PayPal mobile little thing that plugs into your phone, or into your tablet, or you can use the web version if you want. But PayPal is another option I know a lot of people use, and PayPal, I think, is a great one because people are very comfortable with PayPal, they know what PayPal is and PayPal also has a good reputation of like protecting both the seller and the buyer, so it kind of gives people that peace of mind like, "Oh, you use PayPal, you're legit." So that's one option.  

Another option I wanted to bring up that maybe not a lot of you guys know of is Venmo. Venmo is relatively new, it's been around probably for maybe like a year, a year and a half now. I could be wrong. But Venmo is pretty cool. I think PayPal actually bought Venmo recently, or maybe they always were a PayPal company, but I just didn't notice. But I just started recently seeing like the little teeny letters at the bottom that say Venmo is a PayPal company. So Venmo is basically a free app that you can transfer money between people, which I think is really cool. And you can write little memos like, you know, for nail service, or for, you know, splitting a meal. So a lot of people have been using Venmo between friends because when you go out to dinner and, you know, the bill comes and you wanna split it, not everyone wants to like charge their card, you know, who wants to give a server eight different credit cards to charge? And a lot of people don't have cash on them, so Venmo has become very popular when you're going out and you need to split a check. You can basically just Venmo each other the money and say, "Hey, this is for dinner from Friday night," blah, blah, blah. Send the money and there's no fee which is really cool because if you were to do that through PayPal or anything else they do charge a fee to either the receiver or the sender of the money. So Venmo has definitely become a popular option.   

I have a feeling like anything as Venmo continues to get bigger they are gonna figure out weird ways to charge fees, but for now it is free. And so Venmo also is a great way to train your clients about a secure service. Essentially, all they need to do is download the app, create a Venmo account and attach either a bank account or a credit card. And they can send you money directly, no fees, and it's super fast and super easy. So all you would need to do is tell them the total, "Hey, your total for today is $85." And then they can just Venmo you the money, right there you get an instant notification. So I think Venmo's pretty dang cool, and if I was still working at a salon full time, I mean, Venmo didn't exist when I was working full time. But if it did I would definitely use something like Venmo because it's something that anybody in the salon can use, it's very easy and especially if you are a booth renter, or you are someone who's working solo in some type of environment like that, Venmo is great.

 If it's a salon where you're an employee then obviously the salon is gonna have their own service that everyone checks out with the same service, but I think Venmo is a great option and you can use it anywhere, and you can use it for more than service payments. You can use it for splitting things with people, sending money to family and friends, I mean, whatever you want. Or even receiving money from family and friends. I know a lot of people who use Venmo for birthdays, where instead of like Grandma writing you a check they send you Venmo money and say, "Happy birthday." And write like a cute little message. So anyway, I think Venmo's pretty cool. But those are just some options to think about like, what are you using for your checkout process? Is it fast? Is it simple? Is it easy? You know, and I think that's something that you should definitely be reassessing if you don't already have something like that.   

And again, the biggest thing is just make it painless, right? You wanna make it where the person doesn't even bat an eye about what they're doing and, you know, talking about fees which we've talked about before this is a huge thing that I see a lot of people talk about on social media. So Square charges you 3%, PayPal charges you 3%, you know, ballpark, right? It's like 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction. Let's just call it 3%. And actually, if you're doing smaller transactions it's way more than 3%. I don't know if you guys have ever looked at how much you're actually paying per transaction, but it's funny that the kicker is the extra 30 cents, right? Because 2.9% would be 2.9% across the board, but the 30 cents is the thing that makes it different. Because if you look at small dollar transactions versus really large dollar transactions, small dollar transactions actually end up in the 3.4%, or even more sometimes, ballpark range per transaction of fees than if you were charging like $1,000 to the person.  

So a lot of times people think, "Oh, it's only 2.9%." It's actually more than that and it does vary a lot depending on how much you're charging your clients, so you could be paying, you know, almost 4% in fees every time you charge someone. So I think that's an interesting thing to think about. But again, a lot of nail technicians and a lot of business owners, period, you'll walk into a business and they'll be like, "There's a credit card fee if you wanna use your credit card." Okay, number one, that's technically illegal. It's illegal to actually charge someone a fee for using a card.  

Now, a lot of businesses have come up with loopholes around this which is they say it's a convenience charge, or they say it's not related to use of credit card they say it's something else, like a small transaction fee. A lot of people will say it's a small transaction fee. At the end of the day you're passing your buck on to your client and I think there's much more chic ways to do that, much more smart ways to do that. So I want to recommend that you guys don't separate out your fees and don't tell your customer that you're charging them a 3% fee on top of their total because they're gonna use a credit card. So I don't care if they're using Square, PayPal, credit card, whatever. If you get charged a fee in order to use that service do not say to your client that you're gonna charge them an extra fee because they're not paying you cash. 

Number one, that disincentives people to come to your business because a lot of people like to use cards. I never have cash, I legit never have cash on me and any business that's cash only I just get so flustered, I'm like, "Forget this place, I'll go somewhere else." It's the modern day, you need to get on board with plastic, and so I would recommend that you integrate that into your business if you don't have a credit card payment processing system, or something of that nature. Forget about the cash only and the IRS is gonna come after you anyway. A lot of people think, "Oh, if I do cash only there's no record of how much money I'm making." BS, okay? The IRS is smart, they know how much nail techs make, they know exactly how much you should be expected to report as far as wages and tips, and if you get audited and you don't have any proof of how much you charge people and it's like, "Oh, I just have everything in cash, I don't have any records." You're gonna be screwed because the burden of proof is on you. The IRS is one of those situations where you are guilty until proven innocent, and you really don't wanna get slapped with a bill and be expected to pay it and not be able to fight that back. So I do recommend just get on the bandwagon with plastic, be a legit business, and you'll never have to go to sleep with, you know, a knot in your stomach because you'll know that you're on the up and up.  

So the cash thing, yeah, if you think you're circumventing the IRS by accepting cash payments or cash tips and like they'll never know, yeah, they will because they have an idea as to how much money service people make and as a percentage how much they should be reporting in tips. So just keep that in mind. But not only is it illegal to actually charge credit card fees to a client and say that they are credit card fees, it's just really tacky and if you are gonna, you know, if you are gonna basically pass that expense on to your customer why not just wrap it up in your prices, okay? So add an extra 5% to whatever you guys are normally charging and then it doesn't matter because you know you're covering all of your processing costs by charging the person $88 instead of $83, or something like that, right? It's like just add on a few extra dollars to your services and call it a day. It's a very, very, very smooth way of doing it, your client isn't gonna know, you know, anything different and it's not gonna make anything awkward, it's not gonna, you know, sound negative, it's not gonna be something that prevents people from coming back. They're gonna think, "Damn, this girl has a really easy smooth checkout process, I don't have to worry about paying any fees, she accepts, you know, credit card, she has an app I can pay with if I forgot my wallet," because that used to happen a lot where people would forget their wallet, so Venmo is a great option for that because people can send you money even if they don't have their wallet with them.  

And it's just a nice thing to do and I have to say that if you make the checkout process really freaking easy, like there are some apps now that automatically put like 10%, 15%, 20% tip and it just has a little, you know, question, "Tip?" And blah, blah, blah, and you just push a button. I don't know about you, but I tend to tip more when there's a little quick button than if I have to actually calculate and type out how much tip I want. So you can either, again, if you're worried about people not tipping you up your prices a little bit if you wanna do it that way, or just casually say, "Hey, and you can also include gratuity in the Venmo payment if you would like to include gratuity." Period. The end. Not awkward and I think that's a nice way to do it, and a lot of people just don't think of gratuity. They just think, "Oh, she said $85, let me type in $85." You can say $85 and then, you know, and then, "Oh, and you can also add gratuity on there as well if you'd like to add gratuity." Leave it alone.  

And then I would also recommend you walk away for a second while they're doing their financial situation, or pretend like you're doing something. Don't stare at them while they're typing numbers into their phone. It'll make it really, really nice, smooth, they're not gonna feel awkward, you're not gonna feel awkward, and if you can make that check out process smoother people are gonna wanna come back to you because they're not gonna have that weird awkward feeling as their last thought of your business. And that is the key to it which is the checkout process, is at the very, very end. It's the last interaction you have with the client before they walk out the door, and if that's the last interaction it means that that's probably the one that's gonna stick in their memory. So you wanna make sure that the last interaction you have not only is positive, but it's a super high note on the appointment and they just walk out super happy and ready to come back in two weeks, okay?  

So I just wanted you guys to think about that for today, it just cropped up today when I went to Hobby Lobby and just made me think about how much awkwardness in a checkout process can really kind of change your feeling. Now, do I still love Hobby Lobby? Of course, I still love Hobby Lobby and I will still come back, but it does make me think about it. And you don't want your clients to be driving down the road after their appointment thinking that was awkward, that was weird. You just want them to think nothing, you want them to think, "Oh, my God, I love Liz's salon. It's so amazing, that was so fun." That's what you want them thinking, you don't want them mulling over how awkward the checkout process was, or how weird it was or whatever. And that's exactly what I did after leaving Hobby Lobby today, I was like, "Man, I love Hobby Lobby, but that was a really awkward checkout situation." You don't want your clients to have that thought in their head, okay?   

So think about how smooth your checkout process is, think about how efficient your checkout process is. Maybe you should look into getting a different provider, maybe your provider is not cutting it anymore. And I do think the credit card payment processing is something that you should be reviewing regularly because there's constantly new competition for that stuff, and if you can find a company that charges you less than 2.9% plus 30 cents, I highly recommend you look into it. Because the 2.9% plus 30 cents is a killer especially for the dollar range of what we as nail techs normally charge our clients. You're actually probably paying closer to 3.5% per transaction. And no, I don't think you should pass that on to the client as 3.5%. Just roll it into your pricing whatever it is, but imagine if you still had that rolled into your pricing, but it was costing you 1% less than that. That's more money you get to keep and, you know, thinking about margins in our service is very important. That percentage of money we get to keep out of every single service, we wanna make sure we're maximizing that as much as possible. And so thinking about something like credit card transactions is a big piece of that, and I highly recommend you think about it, okay?   

So yeah, try and be a smooth operator with check outs, I think it will definitely have a very positive impact on your clients and your business, and the overall feeling that your clients have of your business and just another piece of food for thought for you guys, and I hope you guys have a great week. Bye.  

Like what you heard? Don't forget to leave a positive review, subscribe, and share this podcast with your nail buddies too. You can even tag me in your social post by using #thenailhub. Have a question or episode request? Send me an email at You can also stay in the know by following me on Instagram and Facebook at The Nail Hub. Thanks for listening and I can't wait to share even more with you in my next episode.


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